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Vietnam Book Review: Aircraft Carriers at War

By Peter Brush
6/7/2018 • Vietnam Magazine

Aircraft Carriers at War

by James L. Holloway. Naval Institute Press, Washington, D.C., 2007, hardcover $34.95.

James L. Holloway offers a well-rounded analysis and discussion of the role that the aircraft carrier played in American naval policy and actions throughout the Cold War. Holloway provides insight based upon his years of personal involvement with naval aviation, from his flight training during WWII to his service as chief of Naval Operations. He brings this experience to bear in Aircraft Carriers at War, which delves into how the aircraft carrier changed naval strategy and tactics, as well as how it affected the Navy in terms of budgets and pilot training.

One of the points that the author discusses effectively was the need for sea power during the Cold War. Holloway explains how the U.S. Navy was vital to NATO plans for the defense of Europe against possible Soviet aggression. In such a scenario, NATO would need a stream of materiel and reinforcements from the United States and Canada, and the most effective means of supplying them was by sea. In addition, the Soviet Navy, at the outset of the Cold War, became increasingly focused on disrupting or eliminating the lines of communication between the United States and NATO in the event of a war on the European Continent. This, however, is not the author’s sole focus.

Holloway uses the wars in Korea and Vietnam to demonstrate the necessity of naval air power in both of those conflicts. He argues that air power, especially naval air power, played a vital role in pushing the North Korean and Chinese forces north of the 38th parallel. Holloway shows that the U.N. forces’ three greatest strengths were infantry, artillery and air power. Specifically, he describes the value of Navy and Marine Corps close air support to U.N. forces. In his discussion of Korea, Holloway calls upon his personal experiences as a naval aviator to illustrate the effectiveness and necessity of air power during that war.

Holloway takes the reader into the Vietnam War and provides rich detail on the tempo of carrier operations during the war. He draws on his experiences as captain of the nuclear carrier Enterprise and, later, as commander of the Seventh Fleet. In the latter role, he directed naval gunfire against Haiphong and carrier strikes against Hanoi during Linebacker II.

The author also draws on his experiences to detail the effectiveness of U.S. naval air power in resolving other conflicts. In particular, he discusses his role as commander of the Carrier Striking Force of the Sixth Fleet during the 1970 Syrian invasion of Jordan.

Throughout the book, Holloway examines and discusses naval air power as an essential tool for American foreign policy and military operations during the Cold War. Moreover, he emphasizes the need to maintain strong and credible air power in our modern geopolitical environment. This is a valuable work for those who enjoy personal accounts of military action, as well as those who appreciate insights into foreign policy and military planning.

 

Originally published in the October 2008 issue of Vietnam Magazine. To subscribe, click here.  

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